In NFL vs. ESPN over whether Bills-Bengals would resume, an ESPN reporter breaks the tie

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Well, this is awkward.

A week after ESPN tiptoed around the prospect of openly disputing the league’s line-in-the-sand position that no consideration was ever given to resuming the Week 17 game between the Bills and Bengals, has dropped a bombshell that bolsters ESPN’s position — and that takes specific aim at NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent.

The item from Don Van Natta, Jr. characterizes league official Dawn Aponte, who was at the game, as a voice of reason who was being pushed by Vincent to proceed with the game.

“The Lord himself could come down, and we were not going to play again,” an unnamed, high-ranking official from one of the teams told ESPN. “[Aponte] was getting pressure. She was not getting consistent and direct messaging that she deserved to receive.”

Aponte reportedly did not waver.

“Whatever crazy nonsense she was getting, man, she held it,” the source told Van Natta regarding Aponte. “She held it strong.”

Van Natta’s item makes it clear that the postponement of the game came not from the league office but from the site of the contest.

“The league did not cancel the game,” the unnamed team official told Van Natta. “The Bills and the Bengals canceled the game.”

Then there’s this, from the unnamed source: “The league screws this shit up because Troy Vincent screws this stuff up. That’s the wrong person in the wrong position at the absolute wrong time. . . . He wants to be the hero, but he will never take accountability. That’s him to a ‘T’.”

Van Natta’s item also contends that ESPN officiating expert John Parry received word that the game would resume on Monday night from “a senior NFL rules analyst inside the NFL command center.”

The NFL, in a statement to, was “adamant that at no time did [the unspecified rules analyst] say anything related to a five-minute warm-up period to John Parry … John is just plain wrong. . . . We stand by Troy Vincent’s comments and strongly refute this characterization.”

But, as Joe Buck told Van Natta, the league never asked ESPN to put the five-minute toothpaste back in the tube.

“We were on the air for another 40 minutes and no one corrected the idea that the game would resume,” Buck told Van Natta. “No one.”

A source who reviewed the article predicted that the league will try to identify the unnamed team official who spoke to Van Natta. “There aren’t that many,” the source said, “and it’s only two teams.”

And this report likely will cause issues at 345 Park Avenue. Added the source: “I know Troy well enough to know this will cause freaking shock waves.”

The shock waves started last Monday, exacerbated by Vincent’s decision to characterize any suggestion of resuming play as “insensitive” and “ridiculous,” when it would have been perfectly reasonable to explain that the league has a standard protocol that initially was going to be deployed, until it became obvious that the situation called for a different approach.

If that had happened, a huge mess would have been avoided.

112 responses to “In NFL vs. ESPN over whether Bills-Bengals would resume, an ESPN reporter breaks the tie

  1. Obviously a bengals staffer going scorched earth after the coin flip bs and I’m here for all of it.

  2. Of course the league lied but othing will come of this. Just filling in time until the first game is played.m

  3. Of course the league lied but nothing will come of this. Just filling in time until the first game is played.m

  4. Why is everyone clutching their pearls over the idea that the NFL didn’t decide to cancel the game? A game has never been canceled due to a player injury before to the best of my knowledge. I understand that the seriousness and life-threatening nature of this injury was unique…but not that many years ago, a young man named Ryan Shazier was taken from that same field with his fate unknown. There were no discussions about anyone’s mental health or the right thing to do. Despite tears streaming down the faces of some players, they went back out and played. Society’s expectations change rapidly these days and sometimes people miss the memo.

  5. Same dude ..11 out of 12 footballs … was an absolute bold face lie. Just like we all knew immediately that his track covering last week was absolute lies. I. Know what happens to liars … Troy it be a good time to come clean

  6. Not shocking. Vincent is a known liar and a fool. It was obvious from the start of this self inflicted controversy that he was trying to spin his way out of it to avoid any kind of accountability.

  7. Vincent is all that’s wrong with the NFL front office. We all know why he has such a prominent position. That being said, the game should have been resumed on Tuesday. I’ve said this from the start.

  8. It was Vincent who created the entire “Deflategate” controversy as well as well as this one. It really is time for him to be fired. Hopefully the owners finally do the right thing after this self created mess.

  9. How about this: there are a whole lot of NFL official personnel and team personnel, and there were probably a lot of people voicing their opinions on what they think will happen and ESPN ran with these so-called sources claiming that they were official league directives.

  10. Hence why the Bengals were punished. Very obvious. Rodger was sending a message that nobody goes against the shield. Roger is also a clown and the Bengals and Bills did the right thing.

  11. You can put this former athlete in a $5000 suit but it won’t change the fact that he’s just carrying water for Rodger. There’s no law degree, he’s just there.

    I really hope the NFL has to reassign Troy (you know they won’t fire him. They don’t have to). He’s less than worthless. If Dawn Aponte could see “this is DIFFERENT” why couldn’t Troy Vincent? Answer: he’s stupid, insensitive or he was receiving marching orders from Commissioner Goodell.

  12. Troy Vincent is a confirmed cheater and liar. It was him who exacted the Spygate framejob with Goodell lurking in the shadows.

    It’s amazing how he has tried to lie through this, too.

    They’re a disgrace and they should be fired immediately. Imagine seeing someone lifeless on the field, the NFL knowing about CPR being done, and actuall still considering playing the game for greed that the lawyers were all weighing still playing.

  13. I hadn’t realized that the only time an NFL player has died on the field, the game resumed after he was taken off by ambulance.

    A friend asked me, would the NFL have kept playing if Twitter didn’t exist? I have to agree with him that the answer is yes, yes it does continue.

  14. Troy Vincent is a patsy for the NFL. He’s not very bright, he’s very slimy, has no morals and he’s a minority. He’ll be discarded like used toilet paper at some point, this may well be that point.

  15. Troy strikes again. Smack dab in the middle of every NFL controversy. Think he might be the problem?

  16. Bills forfeited as you can understand why. No precedent to not continue playing the game, only guy who said they should cancel game on the broadcast was Marcus Spears. How does the richest sport have no competent people running the show? From the game to the coin flips this was handled poorly.

  17. Troy Vincent lying and doing the CYA? Who would even believe it? He’s a total fraud, as was his predecessor.

  18. Troy was a dirty player, and a bad teammate. When he broke his own starting QB’s leg in the preseason he blamed the QB for running on him and the D in practice; he’s always dodged accountability, and when i heard him last monday night i knew that he was lying through his teeth. This report sounds like a dead on bullseye. He’s terrible for the p.a.

  19. Amazing. How quick 7 days later the truth comes out. More reason why the NFL played this situation to benefit themselves. They wanted the game to go on and the players said NO. Then the league went into how do we mould this to make it look like we the league care? Great fake compassion Roger.

  20. Vincent Thrash and Brooks are all hired to take body shots for the league. Vincent right now is taking them.

  21. I’m really surprised Troy Vincent would lie to protect himself …said nobody ever. He lies, it’s his jam. Except he’s not even any good at it. He needs to retake Costanza 101-How to Believe Your Own BS.

  22. Yeah, it’s best to be honest as soon as you realize you’re wrong. That’s been my experience.

  23. Since when does the NFL avoid huge messes? Seems like part of their strategy is to actively make the mess worse and then draw more attention to it.

  24. Dawn Aponte clearly was taking input from the teams, who were taking the lead via their head coaches. She was working the phone, carrying the message forward. This article has veracity. Not a good look for Vincent (or whoever on Park Ave. was pushing). John Parry has no reason to quibble with facts here, but The League will protect their guy.

  25. So the league wanted Cincy to force Buffalo to forfeit so they would be the bad guys instead of the league. As punishment for the headache, they changed the rules, insisted on a possible coinflip against the Ravens and said no coinflip if they meet Buffalo in the playoffs, the one game that actually SHOULD have a coinflip.

  26. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t trust anything that comes out of Troy Vincent’s mouth.

  27. I think it’s actually just one team to narrow down the unnamed official to, based on this statement:

    “We felt confusion and nonsense more than pressure,” the team official said. “They were still discussing things. In our mind there was nothing to be discussed. … If they would have said, ‘If you leave you’re forfeiting the game,’ we’re still leaving.”

    “We’re still leaving” sounds like a team that is flying out, not one that is just driving home down the road. I take this as it is a Bills official. Regardless, the whole thing is a mess, and the league has nobody to blame but themselves for not just coming clean with “we initially planned to resume play until we realized the severity of the injury, and the impact on the players. They pushed back, and we agreed it was the best thing to do.” Just say that, and this is a non-story.

  28. Feels like maybe we should leave this alone and stop searching for fault in what was an incredibly unique and difficult situation for everyone involved.

  29. Troy Vincent has been and always will be a clown. Dude is in way over his head at this executive level. He’s made way too many mistakes.

  30. I don’t understand the drama. There’s not a manual for what to do when someone dies on the field, which in that moment, was what everyone thought happened (and clinically did). The game was not continued, which was the right move; it doesn’t matter how we got there.

    We’re trying too hard to find bad in a situation that was handled amazingly on all fronts.

  31. So tired of this discussion. They were right to cancel the game in the end… it was basically an unprecedented situation… and Hamlin is doing better thank god. That’s all that matters.

  32. Obviously, none of us have first hand knowledge and it’s unlikely anyone who does will put their name behind it. But the reason this immediately passes the sniff test is because of the league’s history.

    Troy Vincent has demonstrated over and over and over and over again that he is every bit as immoral as he is stupid.

  33. This is only a “huge mess” because the media keeps fanning the flames in hopes of creating a story. The fans don’t give 2 s***s whether or not the league did or didn’t say the game would resume….it didn’t resume, end of story. Or it should be anyway, but in today’s society where everyone wants their pound of flesh, it wont be over until someone puts out a bs apology, not because they’re sorry, but because they were told to do so.

  34. All that needed to be said was, “When the injury isn’t of a magnitude of this injury, then yes, we direct teams to get ready to resume play as soon as it makes sense. In this case after the teams, players and those in attendance conveyed that this was an extraordinary, life threatening case, then any earlier notion that the usual protocol for resumption would be followed was dismissed, and the game was cancelled.” End of explanation and conversation.

  35. 100% Buffalo fan homegrown. The game should have continued. Players get carted off the field all the time. Yes this was an ambulance. Anybody watching saw what happened & both team’s players’ reaction. But absolutely nobody knew what was going on. For all anybody knew he could’ve “woke up” or “gotten better” 20-30 minutes later. The players are not doctors so going off of what SOME of them saw was not enough to call a game that huge. Game didn’t stop for Chris Simms, Thiesman, Alex Smith or Dak Prescott. Or lately Tua. Rough comparisons I understand but protocols say play the game unless a forfeiture. Each team knew Hamlin would’ve said first thing to finish that game & beat Cincinnati.

  36. Wow, a person in a position he’s unqualified for screwing things up consistently…I wonder how that happened.

  37. Shouldn’t this debate be decided by a coin-flip?

    If memory serves me correct, Troy Vincent was a co-conspirator not only in the initial Deflategate misinformation leaks but also the league’s coverup when the NFL chose to hold to its thesis in the face of clear scientific evidence to the contrary, taking away draft picks from the Patriots, suspending Brady and tarring the legacies of debatably its greatest player and coach.

    Vincent is a tool.

  38. “If that had happened, a huge mess would have been avoided.”

    Sums up virtually every NFL controversy since Roger took over

  39. Vincent has always been a jerk as rep. It’s not surprising that he screwed this up & then dug in when questioned.

  40. A source who reviewed the article predicted that the league will try to identify the unnamed team official who spoke to Van Natta.
    They already know who said it. All they had to do was ask Dawn Aponte. It was the Bengals and that is why the NFL screwed them during the whole process. If the Bills would`ve won the game they could`ve tied KC and had the tiebreaker so they go neutral site for that game. If the Bengals would`ve won the game they would`ve tied Bills and had tiebreaker but no neutral site you go to Buffalo. And if you don`t beat Baltimore we`ll flip a coin to see if you even get a home game for the wild card round! The Bengals saved the NFL from itself and got punished for it. I bet they don`t get the benefit of too many calls in the Playoffs. That`s just how Goodell`s NFL works.

  41. The NFL is trying to save face. They were going to go forward, but both teams effectively said no. They can’t/won’t punish Buffalo (sympathy for a fallen player) so they’ve been punishing the Bengals. Seriously…a coin toss?!

  42. I kinda felt like ESPN was begging to cancel the game after the fact in studio. No blame but if you were watching, the press was on by the Ex-nfl players because they’re the ones who really know what something like this can do.
    And then the nation ran with it and forced the nfl to do what it did.

  43. Honestly, the NFL is just getting too ridiculous. So much drama, so much money, so much personal agenda, so much incompetence.

  44. Maybe there was science involved. Troy’s admitted that he’s not that good with science.

  45. It’s over. It’s life. No one cares about what the NFL did or didn’t do. Would you trust politicians to fight a war, or those who are actually fighting it to make the decisions? You really think the league wanted to lose all that revenue?

  46. I heard an announcement from someone the teams were advised they had five minutes to warm up, the game will resume .

  47. It was obvious Vincent was lying when he was up on the podium blubbering like a damn fool.

  48. Cancel Culture really brings out the two-face of people. People make bad decisions/insensitive and I respect more when they admit it.

  49. Is anyone really surprised by this?
    I’m not going to stop watching, but the league is run by a bunch of money-first trashbags.

  50. This is back and forth is not important. The fact that the game was not resumed is what matters and they got to the right decision regardless. The rest is just useless finger pointing. A non-story- but typical for the way social media and society are today. Someone’s gotta be held accountable for everything.

  51. Mike Brown and Katie Blackburn went scorched earth when the league decided to screw them with a coin toss possibility. They were all protecting the shield on Tuesday, but when Thursday’s news trickled out, they leaked just how heartless the league is.

  52. A league run by 32 billionaires seems to be able to screw up the simplest things. Being overly sensitive to what is published and said in the media creates the childish defensive response from Troy Vincent. The NFL could have simply stated that the unprecedented circumstances created some confusion and discussion regarding the continuation of the game but the only proper decision was made collectively. End of story NFL, quit screwing the golden goose.

  53. Unsurprising.

    They probably should have played the game at a later date. Both teams made the right decision to not continue it that day.

    Given that, to all the Bengals fans since clamoring for a forfeit- is an add to the win column by way of a forfeit, because of a player on the opposition lying breathless for nearly 10 mins really how you want it ?

    Bills and Bengals will get their rematch. It very much feels like the winner of that game is destined to win it all.

  54. It’s completely fine for someone to have made the suggestion, in the moment, that the game should have resumed. We are all imperfect people doing the best we can.

    To say, ‘no, you can’t think that way’ or that someone can’t go through the options when considering what to do is ridiculous. The people who think they know exactly what to do, that’s it’s absolute and not subject to debate, know less than they think they do.

  55. This was an unanticipated situation. If it was weather-related or some kind of security incident, it would be a much more straight-forward decision. All parties (except for Vincent) seemed to understand the difficulty of the situation and reacted accordingly. Like most viewers, I was shocked, surprised, then realized it was best just to turn off the TV. Thanks god everything looks better than what it was like on Monday night.

  56. Man. All he had to do was not lie about it. “We considered resuming the game, then thought better of it due to the gravity of the situation.”

  57. It’s obvious the league has it out for Cincinnati after agreeing to not play. After what they did it’s going to make the next time very hard for a team to do the right thing cuz they know they’re going to get screwed In The End by the league.

  58. amurdora says:
    January 9, 2023 at 10:34 pm

    I hadn’t realized that the only time an NFL player has died on the field, the game resumed after he was taken off by ambulance.
    In fairness there was only 62 seconds left in that game compared to 3 1/2 quarters left in this one. If there were only 62 seconds left they would`ve just called the game final so it is a totally different situation.

  59. This game was never going to be rescheduled because it didn’t make financial sense for the NFL to do it. That was the only consideration, not the fans, not the teams fighting for playoff positioning…it was all about the cost to re-play the game. A game that the NFL already made their money on.

  60. In the end, none of this matters. The game was rightfully cancelled. I’m sure there was discussion about all options, and different factions had their different motivations. This is how people collaborate, make decisions, and then explain their decisions when they are in a public profession.

  61. Goodell had already thrown Vincent under the bus a few days ago when he said normal procedure would have been to resume the game. The crazy part is there was no reason for anybody to lie. Simply saying, “The refs were following standard procedure to restart play because we hadn’t been able to reach them yet” would have been the truth and wouldn’t have garnered any negative attention. One of the dangers of habitually lying is it becomes the default action even when it serves no purpose.

  62. Props to Dawn Aponte. The decision to not resume play had the bearing of a woman’s touch and was the right way to go.

  63. So a week ago people were outraged that they were considering continuing the game…which turned to outrage because the game wasn’t continued..and now outraged because the league wanted to continue the game?

  64. but not that many years ago, a young man named Ryan Shazier was taken from that same field with his fate unknown. There were no discussions about anyone’s mental health or the right thing to do. Despite tears streaming down the faces of some players, they went back out and playe
    Was he legally dead receiving chest compressions and not once, but twice, a defribulator?

    There is a difference between being unable to move but alive and, oh wow, that guys is dead right now. It’s amazing how a week of hindsight, everyone is suddenly 20/20 vision tough guys.

  65. Thank God Damian is recovering.

    Had the game been played and the Bengals won, the Bengals and Bills would be tied as far as Wins and Losses. However the Bengals would overtake the Bills due to head to head. Thus Bengals would be 2 Seed and Bills 3 Seed. The Dolphins would be playing the Bengals and the Raven playing the Bills.

    The league took care of Championship game between Bills and Chiefs played on a neutral field.

    The league failed to address the Round 2 game between the Bills and Bengals be a neutral site too.

    The Bills snowstorm game was moved on short notice. Move Bills-Bengals game pronto. Reschedule the Dolphins and Ravens accordingly too.

  66. I’m usually the one in here saying “come on, now…these NFL people aren’t cartoon villains, chomping on cigars, and conspiring in their evil lairs.”

    But I’ll be damned if they don’t look more and more like that with the passing of each day.

  67. mogogo1 says:
    January 10, 2023 at 10:09 am
    Goodell had already thrown Vincent under the bus a few days ago when he said normal procedure would have been to resume the game. The crazy part is there was no reason for anybody to lie. Simply saying, “The refs were following standard procedure to restart play because we hadn’t been able to reach them yet” would have been the truth and wouldn’t have garnered any negative attention. One of the dangers of habitually lying is it becomes the default action even when it serves no purpose.

    00Rate This


    Umm, that’s not the truth. According to John Parry he had “constant communication”, so they knew the staff was giving CPR from the outset.

    What they should have said was “we are canceling the game out of respect for the players who are affected by this traumatic incident”.

    Not hard. At all.

    The reason why it took an hour is because multiple lawyers with Goodell were actually weighing options to see if their greed could get away with it again. Once they realized the “tone” of the public sentiment, they went with that decision.

    It’s why Spygate and Deflategate exist.

  68. Amazing how many Patriots fans are here roasting Troy Vincent almost a decade after their team was caught cheating for the 3rd time. Brady’s four game suspension actually helped him stay fresh for the Super Bowl. Let it go!

    Instead, worry that your coach is no better than Rex Ryan without Brady.

  69. This is all pretty dumb.

    Nobody has ever had to deal with this before and people were just figuring things out on the fly. So, yeah, perhaps some thoughts were made at the time that in hindsight weren’t great but it was such a fluid situation and nobody knew what to do.

    I’m so tired of people having to blame someone for something all the time.

  70. You know Vegas had one of Goodell’s ears in all of this debacle. There was a TON of money on this game and if there’s one thing the NFL loves more than fans, players, or sanity it’s money. They wanted this game to go on, or at the very least resume the next day and after the Bills left the league realized they’re screwed so the debacle would get amplified. If this game were made up/resumed then this is a footnote. I think the Bengals were shocked the Bills flew home

  71. Wow. Polarization on steroids. Denmark international soccer player Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during a game against Finland, in June 2021. He was revived on the pitch but still taken to the hospital.

    Players of both teams decided to continue, and did finish out,the game later in the day.

    Eriksen resumed his professional career in February 2022. Currently, Eriksen stars for Manchester United.

  72. Umm, that’s not the truth. According to John Parry he had “constant communication”, so they knew the staff was giving CPR from the outset.

    Yes, and that is consistent with the officials following standard procedure to restart the game, including the 5-minute warmup mentioned on air. The NFL hadn’t made any other decision at that time (or hadn’t gotten word to the refs yet) and nobody would have faulted them for that. But instead of admit that Vincent tried to completely deny it all. (Like ESPN made up the 5-minute warmup thing miraculously at the exact same time players started warming totally on their own.) Vincent’s first instinct isn’t just to lie (because he could have admitted to all that and still spun things to the NFL’s favor) but to bold-face lie and deny absolutely everything even when that causes way more problems than if he’d just told the truth.

  73. I think they made the right decision to not continue playing the game that night. Although the virtue singallers make it seem like continuing the game would have put Hamlin more at risk somehow. That is ridiculous. It was the right move to call it off that night, but that certainly could not have been immediately obvious to everyone particularly people not on site. Now whether they should have picked back up the next day is maybe another matter. Also, obviously the Bengals are refunding tickets, but what about parking or other costs that people incurred to go the game?

  74. Funny how all the comments are aimed at Troy Vincent when it is clear that he is just a shill for Roger (Rabbit) Goodell. I wonder why? I concur the NFL and owners are punishing Cincy for refusing the forfeit. NFL public relations is the worst.

  75. We all watched what happened live on TV. I think everyone could see that they planned to continue that game. They announced there would be a 5 minute intermission. The bengals started warming up. Stefon Diggs was trying to rally his team on the sideline to get them ready to play again (an obviously impossible task).

    The game was only stopped when Zac Taylor walked back across the field and huddled with Sean McDermott again.

    The NFL can try to pretend whatever they want but anyone with eyes and a brain saw the truth.

  76. This explains why Goodell tried to screw the Bengals, and still could screw the Bengals and/or Bills with the AFC Championship coin flip.

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